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Derek awoke with a start, panting and sweating as he stared at his ceiling. His heart was beating so hard that it was all he could hear. Wait, no, that wasn't his heart. He was out of bed and pulling on a pair of sweats before he could even fully process that. It felt like something was pulling at him, as if there was a hook snagged into his core and someone was reeling in the line.

The heartbeat grew louder, and he was able to detect the sounds of someone rushing clumsily through the forest. He spared a moment to center himself and listen to the others in the house. Isaac was shifting restlessly in his bed, but his breathing indicated he was still asleep. Erica and Boyd both had calm, even heartbeats and breaths. Everyone inside was fine.

Rubbing absently at the center of his chest where he felt the phantom pull, Derek made his way down the stairs and towards the foyer. The footsteps outside were growing closer, and he could even hear some harsh, panicked panting. He hesitated at the door, wondering if he should wake his betas in case whoever was approaching was a threat. The thing was, though, that it didn't feel like a threat. It felt like...like pack.

Shit, maybe it was Scott or Allison or Lydia or Jackson or—

“Derek!” Stiles.

All hesitation effectively eradicated by that one piercing cry, Derek threw open the door and ran towards the source. He didn't have to run far, or perhaps he had simply been running so fast that it seemed like just a few quick steps. In a blink, Stiles was there, collapsing against him and reeking of blood and wolf.

Derek opened his mouth to ask what had happened, knew his eyes were burning red, but Stiles' hands were suddenly grabbing at his face. His fingers were covered in dried blood and his nails felt strangely sharp. “You're my alpha,” Stiles was babbling, almost desperately. “Right? You're my alpha, Derek. Derek Hale is my alpha.” Then Stiles pushed back and turned around, addressing the forest at large. “Did you hear me?” he yelled. “Derek Hale is my alpha!”

“Stiles, what—” Derek reached out to pull him closer again so that he could examine his wounds, make sure he was alright.

When Stiles turned back to face him, his eyes burned bright gold in the darkness, and his teeth gleamed sharp. Then those eyes were rolling back and Stiles collapsed like a marionette with its strings cut.

---

“What do you mean you don't know what happened?” Derek hissed into the phone, trying to keep his voice down so as not to wake Stiles.

“Dude, I'm in another state.” Scott had no problem yelling, however. “As far as I knew, he was supposed to still be at Fresno State until this weekend. His last final was today, but he said he still needed to pack everything up and get ready for the move back.”

Derek ran his hand back through his hair and cast a glance at his bed to make sure Stiles was still asleep. Downstairs Erica was grumbling about not being able to see how Stiles was doing, while Isaac ground coffee and Boyd made pancakes. “He didn't maybe tell you anything about suspicious werewolves on campus or something?”

“No. Besides, shouldn't he tell you that, since you're his alpha?” There was a bitterness to Scott's voice that had never truly managed to fade over the years. While the pack had pretty much absorbed Scott and company into itself, Scott had remained stubbornly resistant. Hell, it had been easier to get Allison into the pack, and that was after she'd—as Stiles put it—treated Boyd like Boromir and Isaac like Caesar.

“You're still his best friend, Scott. He probably talks to you more than anyone else. So, think. Were there any suspicious people he talked about? Anything he felt weird about?”

“I told you, no. Not really.” Then he paused, as if actually doing what Derek asked and giving it some thought. “Like, so there was this one guy in one of his classes who reminded Stiles of Peter, and kept hitting on Stiles no matter how many times Stiles turned him down. And there was this chick in another class who stared at him a lot. And then there was the barista at the school cafe who Stiles is pretty sure is secretly a serial killer. But you know how Stiles over-analyzes people.”

Derek took a calming breath. “Okay. Thanks. Maybe I'll be able to find out more once he wakes up. I'll keep you updated.”

“Thanks,” Scott murmured, sounding almost apologetic for his earlier outburst. “He's my brother.”

“I know. I'll make sure he's alright.”

“Thanks,” Scott repeated. “Later.”

Derek clicked off the phone and looked down at the screen, wondering if he should call the Sheriff. Another glance at Stiles, and Derek was clicking through his contacts. The Sheriff answered almost immediately. “Please tell me you're just calling in sick to work, and that there wasn't another 'animal attack,' Hale.”

Ah, hell, he'd forgotten that he had a shift later that day. “Both,” he sighed into the phone. “And you need to come over as soon as possible.”

The Sheriff was silent for a moment, and when he next spoke his voice was a veneer of strength over something on the verge of cracking. “What happened?”

“It's Stiles, he—”

“That's impossible, Derek, he's not due back until this weekend.”

“I know, but he showed up this morning before dawn.” He turned his eyes up to the ceiling as he tried to figure out how to break the news. “Sheriff. John. He was bit.”

“Bit. Bit by what?”

“An alpha werewolf would be my guess. He's already turned.”

There was silence again, and then a soft, “I'm on my way.”

“Is he freaking out?” Stiles asked, voice rough and scratchy.

Derek cocked his head and set his phone down on the top of his dresser. “You couldn't hear his responses?”

Stiles' mouth twitched into something almost a smile and he cracked open his eyes to thin slits. “Yeah, but still.” He closed his eyes again. “Let me pretend for as long as possible that I can't hear things like that, or the scrape of what I assume is a spatula because I smell pancake batter.”

“Boyd likes to cook when he's worried or upset.”

“I know. Kinda sweet that I warrant his famous pancakes.” A real smile flickered across Stiles' lips for a second. “Sometimes I swear he hates me.”

“I don't hate you,” Boyd answered mildly from downstairs.

“Jesus,” Stiles grumbled, rolling over and opening his eyes again to look up at Derek. “That's fucking weird as shit.”

“Wait till you hear people take actual shits,” Erica snickered with sadistic glee.

Stiles groaned and burrowed his head beneath the pillow. Then his shoulders stiffened. “This is your bed.” His words were muffled by the pillow, and then he slowly sat up and set the pillow back in its place. “It, ah. It smells like you.” When he glanced Derek's way, his eyes flashed gold for a second, then he was intensely focused on his hands in his lap. “You couldn't have put me in one of the guest rooms?”

“I thought it might be soothing to be surrounded by your alpha's scent while your body finished adjusting to the bite.” The reasoning was sound enough, Derek knew, and it was also true enough that there was no blip in his heartbeat.

“Speaking of,” Derek continued, moving closer and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “What happened? Who did this to you?”

“Lance.” At Derek's blank stare, Stiles huffed a mirthless laugh and shook his head. “The creeper who reminds me of Peter. Scott told you.” So, he'd been awake for a lot longer than Derek had realized. “Seems he has more in common with Peter than I'd thought.”

Smelling and sensing Stiles' increased agitation, Derek reached out and laid a comforting hand on his bare knee. Stiles was still covered in some dried blood and dirt, but Derek had stripped him down to his boxers before laying him out on the bed. “How did it happen?”

Stiles' eyes went a little unfocused as he recalled the events. “The guy really can't take no for an answer.” When Derek's hand gripped his knee a little tighter, Stiles quickly assured, “No, I don't mean he—no. He just... I was walking back to my dorm, and then suddenly I find myself in some unfamiliar house, with one hell of a headache and Lance flashing red eyes at me. Creeper says he's tired of playing games, that he knows I know what he is, that I should stop resisting what my heart really wants because we're, like, meant to be. Other whack-o bullshit like that. Like, I fucking swear, I have no idea why he thinks I'd be interested, when I've been trying to actively avoid him all semester. But, whatever, crazy people are just fucking crazy sometimes.” Stiles paused to take a deep inhale through his mouth and slowly release it through his nose. Derek started stroking his thumb soothingly on Stiles' knee, offering silent support.

“So,” continued Stiles, “he starts rambling about how he knows I've been having to pretend like I'm not interested because the alpha I hang with will get mad. Then I may have sort of improvised a bit and insinuated that the alpha and I do more than 'hang.'” Stiles' cheeks flushed red, but Derek didn't stop his slow, even strokes with his thumb. It was a smart move, claiming to be romantically involved with an alpha. Usually it kept other alphas away, if they were at all rational. Which, by the sound of it, this guy wasn't.

“That should have made him back off,” Derek said, verbalizing his thoughts and letting Stiles know he wasn't mad at his actions. “What went wrong?”

Stiles snorted and rubbed at his already wild hair. “Guy's fucking nuts. He starts legit comic book villain monologue-ing. Going on and on about how he can 'save me' from you, how if he gives me the bite, he'll be my alpha, and we'll be free to be together. I tried to get the fuck out of there, but I was still woozy from likely getting hit over the fucking head when he kidnapped me. Plus, you know, human.” He had started to motion at himself, but then paused and lowered his hand with a frown. “Or, well, was human. So, anyway, he caught me easily enough, though I had at least managed to get through the door. Bastard bites me, I punch him in the nose and fucking run.”

Derek stared at him with wide eyes. “You ran. From Fresno to here.”

Ducking his head, Stiles shrugged and darted a quick glance at Derek through his lashes. “It's not that far away. Part of why I chose it, after all.”

“Yeah, but you had just been bitten.” It took a great deal of control for Derek to remain calm at the very thought of Stiles being in pain and running all night just to get to Beacon Hills. His hand twitched on Stiles' knee.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, his hand sliding over Derek's and giving it a gentle squeeze. “It's fine. I'm fine. I made it here safely. And, hey, most importantly, I survived the bite.” It was obvious that Stiles was trying to summon a smile for Derek's benefit. His hand was flecked with rusty, dried blood.

Reluctantly, Derek pulled his hand away and stood up. “You should shower before your dad gets here,” he said, turning partially away from Stiles and trying to find something—anything—to focus his attention on instead.

---

John arrived while Stiles was still in the shower. Not wanting to move too far from Stiles, Derek remained in his room and spoke orders down to his betas to greet the Sheriff and keep him calm until Stiles was ready to head down. He listened to them obey, Isaac getting John some coffee and Boyd offering pancakes (which John, surprisingly, turned down). Erica was doing her best to get John to relax, assuring him that Stiles was fine and he was taking a shower.

Being so focused on listening in to the happenings downstairs, Derek was almost caught off guard by Stiles stepping out of the en suite with just a towel around his hips. But, Derek was always hyper aware of Stiles whenever he was around. It felt even sharper now, and he wondered if it had to do with Stiles having been turned, or if it was residual worry. “Your dad's here,” Derek said, holding out a clean pair of sweats and a shirt he pulled from his hamper.

“I know,” sighed Stiles as he grabbed the clothes. “I could hear him.” Then he paused and took a sniff of the clothing, nose wrinkling. “Dude, what the hell?”

“I wasn't the one who bit you,” Derek explained softly. “It'll help strengthen our pack bond to have my scent on you.”

Stiles just rolled his eyes, but dropped his towel and started dressing anyway. It had taken Stiles the longest to get over body modesty amongst the pack, and sometimes Derek almost wished he'd never gotten over it. “So what's the plan, alpha-mine?”

God, the scent combination of Derek's shirt on Stiles was a little too effective. “First we go downstairs and you let your dad see that you're safe and healthy. Then we decide how we're dealing with the alpha who bit you.”

“You don't think,” Stiles started slowly, eyes widening with concern and hand absently smoothing down the front of his borrowed shirt, “that he'll try to pull something with me like Peter did with Scott, do you? Like, will he be able to get me to sleepwalk out to him, or something?”

His expression made that strange tugging in Derek's chest return, and he couldn't help but reach out and lay a comforting hand on Stile's shoulder. “No,” he assured, sliding his hand a little so that his fingers rubbed at Stiles' neck. “It's not the same. Scott hadn't had a pack at the time, but you do. You already have an alpha, so his pull won't be as strong for you.” Hopefully. No, no hope about it. Derek simply wouldn't allow it.

He gave Stiles' shoulder a little squeeze, and felt a guilty thrill when Stiles leaned into it. Stiles was always someone Derek considered to be off limits. First due to his age, then due to Derek being his alpha. It was worse now that Stiles was a beta wolf. At least as a human he wouldn't be compelled to do something simply because his alpha ordered, but as a wolf he'd feel the sway and increased need to obey and please. There was no way Derek would ever want to take advantage of that. So, Stiles would probably always be off limits.

Derek led the way down the stairs, Stiles so close behind him that his breath was practically on Derek's neck. Everyone was waiting on them in the living room, John rising from the couch and putting his coffee down on an end table with distracted motions. Stiles made a displeased little sound behind Derek and asked, “Does this mean all the pancakes are gone?”

It was effective in shattering the tension in the room, knocking a short laugh out of John. “Dammit, kid,” he husked, striding over and around Derek to get to his son.

Turning to face them, Derek watched the Stilinski men hug it out. Then the wet gleam to their eyes had Derek looking away and heading towards the kitchen. “Dad, I'm fine,” he heard Stiles assure. With an ear on Stiles and the others, Derek went about grabbing a plate and piling on a few pancakes from a stack Boyd had left out. He grabbed some silverware and the bottle of syrup, then made his way slowly back to the living room.

He was pleased to see that his other betas had courteously looked away, as well, and were all huddled on the couch pretending to find the dark TV fascinating. “Here,” he offered to Stiles, holding out the plate and syrup.

“Aw, best alpha ever!” Stiles cooed excitedly, slipping out of John's embrace to make grabby hands at the offered breakfast. At Boyd's disgruntled huff from the couch, Stiles turned to him with a wink. “And Boyd's the best beta bro. Hah, whoa, alliteration.” Then he was practically bounding over to the loveseat to plop down and enjoy his meal.

Derek and John exchanged a commiserating look before moving to take their own seats. Without thinking, Derek took the spot beside Stiles, but John didn't seem to mind as he sank down into the thick, cushy recliner. “So,” said John on a heavy breath, “who did this?”

Stiles slowly finished chewing the large helping he'd shoved into his mouth, swallowed hard, and repeated the tale. By the end of it, John was up and pacing and looking ready to murder Lance.
Derek could empathize. “So what do we do now?” John asked, his pale eyes flicking between Stiles and Derek. “We find this Lance guy and he and Derek fight it out? We report him for assault and kidnapping? What?”

“Well,” Derek explained patiently, “getting him arrested probably won't work. If he's as unstable as Stiles suggests, that could just result in officers getting hurt.”

John's eyebrows rose and his hands came to a rest on his hips, one hand unconsciously cupping the butt of his gun. “So we confront him?”

“Yes, but that doesn't mean we necessarily have to kill or even fight him. It's not uncommon for a bitten beta to choose a pack other than the one headed up by the alpha who bit them. Stiles would have to acknowledge me as his alpha and I'd have to accept him as my beta, in Lance's presence.” Which was what Stiles had been trying to do when he arrived, Derek knew. Though, he wasn't certain Lance had actually been anywhere around to hear the declaration. “And if the traditional method doesn't work, there's always the angle Stiles bluffed about our being in a relationship. If I also acknowledge that, maybe get a little aggressively territorial, he'll back off.”

“Right,” John was starting to look a little calmer, the tension in his shoulders loosening. “And, I mean, how powerful can this kid be, right? He's gotta be, what, twenty-one, twenty-two?”

“No, I'd say mid forties, minimum,” Stiles corrected with a shake of his head, fingers scraping through the leftover syrup on his plate. He brought them to his mouth and began to suck and lick them clean until he noticed the room had gotten silent. “Mwah?” he asked around the sticky digits.

“You said he was in one of your classes,” John said dully, as if not even surprised that of course his son had somehow managed to snag the unwanted attention of a potentially powerful older alpha werewolf.

Stiles shrugged, his shoulder rubbing against Derek's with the motion, and he pulled his fingers free. His lips were shiny with spit and syrup, and Derek forced himself to look at Stiles' eyes instead. “Yeah, he was, but there's people of all ages in a lot of my higher level classes. People goin' back to school, continuing their education, you know how it is.”

Erica snorted from her place on the couch. “Well, you did say he reminded you of Peter in a lot of ways.”

“Right!?” Stiles shot back, motioning towards her in a sweeping, exaggerated wave. “See, she gets it. Like, seriously, if I didn't know any better, I'd think Peter came back from the dead again and got plastic surgery and called himself Lance and then stalked me to Fresno.”

Derek felt the sudden urge to visit each of the warded burial sites to make certain they still contained Peter's remains. “Alright,” he said, trying to reassess the situation knowing that they might be dealing with a more seasoned alpha who could potentially have a decently-sized pack. “Our plan should still work. If he's older, then it means he's even more likely to follow tradition.”

Stiles turned incredulous eyes on him, and nearly tipped his sticky plate over into Derek's lap with the swift shift of position. “The dude kidnapped me and then bit me because he wanted to steal me away from you—from your pack. What the hell makes you think he's going to be any more willing to give up on me now that he's my wolfy sire?”

Carefully taking the plate away from Stiles, Derek set it aside on the end table. “I don't. But before, it was just you, and he might not have thought he'd have to listen to you because you are technically 'below him' in rank. But I'm an alpha, so he might actually accept what I have to say.”

“And if he doesn't...” Boyd added with threat dripping from his words. Beside him, Isaac and Erica flashed twin smirks.

Looking unconvinced but resigned, Stiles huffed and slumped back in his seat. “Alright, so what do we do, go to Fresno and walk around howling until Lance shows up?”

“If he's really that hellbent on having you, then he'll probably follow you here. If he hasn't already.” The thought made Derek practically itch with the need to patrol his territory for any signs of trespassers.

Stiles chewed on his bottom lip, fingers tapping out a rhythm on his thighs while he thought. Then he licked his abused lip and sat forward again. “Okay, so we gather those of the pack who are back from college or can get here ASAP. Hole up here and prepare, in case Lance shows up with his entire pack to back him up should he decide to challenge your claim. Then, we wait.” He turned to look at Derek, then his dad, then the other betas, before swinging his attention back to Derek once again as he awaited approval.

“Allison should be back by now,” said Derek, giving a little nod to indicate he agreed with Stiles' idea. “Lydia wasn't supposed to be back until this weekend, same as you. Jackson should be arriving at some point today.”

Nodding along, Stiles added, “And Scott's probably going to book it here after his last final today, since your call this morning probably worried the shit out of him. Still, it'll probably take him a day and a half unless he catches a flight.”

Derek stood up and pulled his phone out. “I can cover it. We need the whole pack. I'll call Lydia, too, and see about getting her on a flight over sooner.”

“No,” Erica interrupted, rising from the couch and motioning Isaac and Boyd up and into action. “We'll take care of that. Isaac will call Scott, I'll call Lydia, Boyd will pull up different flight options on the computer. You,” she said, pointing at Derek, “need to make sure your new beta has proper control. Not just for the upcoming confrontation, but also because the full moon is in a week.”

“He's actually been demonstrating amazing control so far,” said Derek, pocketing his phone and trying not to glow too much in pride over Erica's actions or Stiles' abilities.

“Yeah, well,” Stiles scoffed modestly, shrugging his shoulders and ducking his head. “I mean, I helped Scott out with learning how to be a werewolf. I guess it all just kinda, ya know, stuck with me.”

John flashed a proud smile at his son before going serious again. “I'll get together with Chris. He, Allison, and I will work on defenses in the preserve. I'll also put out a notice for people to steer clear of the preserve due to increased mountain lion activity.” Then he turned to Derek, assessing. “How many sick days do you think you'll need for this?”

It was a good thing he never actually got sick, and that things had been rather quiet for the past couple years, because he had plenty of PTO to burn. “Not sure yet. That'll probably depend on how things go with Lance. But I will likely come down with something on the full moon. Just because Stiles is doing well now doesn't mean it won't hit him hard then.”

With a considering hum, John looked between his son and Derek. “Fair enough. Just keep him safe, Hale.”

Locking eyes with John, Derek assured, “Always.”

Stiles was suddenly on his feet, tugging insistently on Derek's arm. He blinked for a moment when he saw he could move Derek with relative ease, unlike how it had always been before, but then his grip grew firmer and he continued to maneuver Derek towards the stairs. “Okay, so since we all have everything straightened out, Derek and I are gonna go chat about things. New beta things. And stuff.”

Derek allowed himself to be pulled, putting on an exasperated face even as he delighted in the touch and Stiles' new strength. He glanced back at everyone in parting before disappearing with Stiles up the stairs. Once he was tugged into his room, he was shoved to the side while Stiles shut his door and rounded on him with a face set firm in determination.

“We should practice,” Stiles announced, trying and failing not to blink in his effort to seem firm and brave.

Derek glanced around the room before giving Stiles a confused look. “Well, of course. But typically training happens outside, where we have more room and less chance of breaking something.”

“What?” Stiles blinked rapidly, then seemed to catch on before releasing a huff. “No, I mean practice being. You know.” He waved a hand between them and bobbed his head a little. “Together.”

“Oh.” That. That could get complicated. “I'm sure it'll be fine. We don't need to.” Derek could hear the Sheriff leaving downstairs and his betas get to work on their tasks.

His response seemed to aggravate Stiles, who scrubbed both hands back through his messy hair with a growl made more defined by his new lupine nature. “Derek, there is no way he'll believe we're together if we're awkward with intimacy. We'll need to be able to touch and kiss casually to be convincing.”

“Why are we touching and kissing in front of him?”

That earned Derek a glare. “Seriously? Didn't you say something about being possessive? Just how are you going to be possessive over me if you won't even go near me?”

Right. “Fine. So, you want to, what? Practice hugging and kissing?” God, he was not going to survive this. He'd survived having Peter's claws through his chest, and that was probably going to be a paper cut compared to this.

Stiles' cheeks suddenly flushed but he refused to look away. “Exactly. Plus it'll help with us smelling like each other and junk, right?” He seemed to realize something, because his eyes went wide. “Wait, will he expect us to smell like we've-”

“No.” Derek had to shut that down before the image took over his mind. “You'd just been bitten and gone through the change. There's no way I'd have initiated anything with you while you were hurt and weak.”

His words made Stiles' expression melt, softening the sharpness to his eyes. “That's really sweet, dude.”

Derek cleared his throat and took a step closer. “Anyway, let's do this.” He held his arms out at his side, inviting a hug.

With a soft snort, Stiles shuffled the last few inches between them and threw his arms around Derek. As Derek returned the embrace, it felt like sealing his doom. Stiles was so warm, smelled so fucking good. The beta seemed to think the same about Derek, because he felt Stiles press his nose against his throat and heard him inhale deeply. Stiles' lips brushed against his throat with the action, sending a shiver along Derek's spine that he was unable to hold back. Bringing a hand up to run fingers back through Stiles' hair, Derek cupped his head and directed him to lift his face so their lips could meet.

Stiles' lips were still a little sticky with syrup, and Derek licked it away, chased the flavor into Stiles' mouth. Of course, Stiles gave back as good as he got, rocking Derek to his core. Soon fangs were pressing and catching against Derek's lips, sharp claws pricking at his back. “Stiles,” he said gently, pulling slowly away. “Stiles, you're shifting.”

“Wha?” Stiles tried to chase after Derek's lips before his words seemed to sink in and he jerked back with a start. “What, seriously?” He stepped around Derek, rushing to the bathroom to look at himself in beta form. “I still have eyebrows! Awwww, but I got the muttonchops...”

Derek gave a short chuckle and moved to lean against the door frame, watching as Stiles turned his head this way and that in front of the mirror. “So evidently we need to discuss anchors.”

“Psh, no.” Stiles waved him off carelessly, then made play growly faces at himself. “I've been using thoughts of my mother as an anchor, and it's worked so far. It's just, well, kinda hard to think about my mom when you've got your tongue in my mouth.” He turned towards Derek and waggled his still-present eyebrows.

Derek swallowed hard, then nearly closed his eyes on a sigh when all it did was bring back the taste of Stiles. Instead he narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. “Then maybe you should come up with a different anchor.”

Stiles considered it with a hum, going back to examining himself in the mirror. “Well, I mean, I'm still pretty much in control. I may look wolfy, but I still feel pretty calm and Stilesy. But I see your point. I can't go shifting every time I think dirty thoughts, because then I'd be a wolf, like, eighty percent of the time.”

“Only eighty?” Derek asked, raising skeptical eyebrows.

“Okay, so closer to ninety.” Stiles stuck his tongue out at him from between his sharp teeth. “Now give me a minute to focus so I can work on changing back.”

Instead of leaving, Derek pushed off of the door frame and stepped further into the room until he was standing right behind Stiles. “Maybe you could use that.”

Stiles cocked his head and stared back at him through their reflections in the mirror. “What?”

“Your 'dirty thoughts.' As you pointed out, you're still mostly in control. Maybe the fact that you were aroused helps.” Every rational bit of Derek was screaming at him to move away, leave the room, stop. Unfortunately, a rarely-heard selfish part of him had stepped to the front and its voice overpowered everything else. Do it, the voice urged, even if it's just this once, have him.

Stiles had gone stock-still, but the scent of his interest had increased. Slowly, he turned around until they were face to face, his bright yellow eyes searching Derek's. “And that doesn't bother you? That I, ah, got 'aroused' thanks to you?”

“Lesson time. Inhale.”

For a moment Stiles just stared at him, but then he took a long breath in through his nose. There was a pause as Stiles processed the different smells—shower toiletries, toilet water, mildew, his own scent, Derek's scent, and— His eyes met Derek's, wide with uncertainty and hope. He took another long inhale, stepping closer as he did it. Then Stiles lifted a barely trembling hand to Derek's chest, kept it there for a few heartbeats, and slowly slid it down Derek's torso. The next long inhale had Stiles closing his eyes and looking as if he were biting back a moan.

No matter how much Derek wanted to surge forward and kiss Stiles again, he held back, let Stiles take the lead. There was no risk that any of it could be him abusing his alpha powers if the beta initiated it all himself. At least, that's what Derek hoped. Stiles would often get aroused in Derek's presence, and he'd seen the guy check him out enough times to know there was at least some interest. It should be fine. Two consenting adults.

Fingers brushed his stomach just above his jeans, and Derek's heart fell over itself. “I heard that,” Stiles whispered, gaze dropping to watch his own hand as it brushed clawless fingertips along Derek's fly. His face was almost entirely human again, except his eyes still blazed gold and his teeth still snagged sharply on his kiss-swollen lips. “Who'd have thought all it would take for you to be interested in me was for me to get bitten. Maybe I'd have changed my mind about taking the bite years ago, had I known.” His voice was pitched to be light and teasing, but Derek could hear the underlying pain.

He reached out and brushed his hand against Stiles' smooth cheek. “It doesn't matter to me if you're human or werewolf, Stiles. It never did, never will. I just can't really keep it from you anymore. Literally. You'll be able to hear and smell the truth, so...”

That brought Stiles' attention back to up his face, and it looked as if the shift was creeping back up on him. “Why? Why would you keep it from me?”

“I can't have you,” Derek confessed, rubbing the pad of his thumb against Stiles' bottom lip before feeling guilty about it and sliding his hand so that he would just be caressing the apple of Stiles' cheek. “It wouldn't be fair to you. You wouldn't really have much of a choice, if I-”

“Bullshit.” Derek was suddenly pressed against the wall at his back, Stiles kissing him like an attack before slowly gentling it to something soft and somehow infinitely more painful. Stiles' human fingers were scrabbling over Derek, tugging at his clothes, slipping beneath fabric to get to skin. “This is absolutely my choice,” Stiles gasped against Derek's mouth. “If it was between you and literally anyone else in the world, I'd choose you. Each.” Kiss. “And.” Blunt teeth scraped across Derek's stubbled cheek. “Every.” A warm tongue licked at Derek's earlobe. “Time.”

Releasing a growl and his control, Derek reached up and grabbed Stiles, pulling him closer and rocking away from the wall to rub against him. Just as Stiles' fingers began tugging at the button of Derek's fly, a jolt zinged through Derek that had nothing to do with desire.

“Wait,” he gasped, grabbing Stiles' hands and holding him still. Tilting his head, Derek strained to listen to the world outside of their room.

Stiles licked his lips and tried to calm his panting, hands flexing a little in Derek's grip as if they were eager to get back to their task. “What is it?”

“I think Lance is nearby. Something feels...off.”

Groaning in disappointment, Stiles leaned forward to bump his forehead against the wall beside Derek's head. It pressed them flush against each other, tempting Derek to forget the approaching alpha and just dive right back into kissing Stiles. “Come on,” he said instead, releasing Stiles' hands and patting him softly on the side. “Let's get this over with.”

“The others aren't even here yet,” Stiles whined. “What good is having them fly in early if they still miss the confrontation?” He grumpily stepped back from Derek, but then swooped back in for a quick peck on the lips before stepping aside again.

That little kiss somehow made Derek's heart trip over itself just as badly as the deep, filthy ones. “There's no guarantee that this will be wrapped up today. We'll still need everyone here in case Lance pulls us into a territory dispute.”

Stiles gave him a flat look. “I'm not territory.”

Offering an apologetic smile, Derek reached out to rub Stiles' upper arm and give it a squeeze. “I know. I didn't mean you. Well, not just you. It's very possible he'll challenge me for Beacon Hills while he's here.”

Stiles made a mock sound of concern and leaned in close as if sharing a secret, smirk tugging at one corner of his mouth. “Aw, sounds like someone doesn't know what happened to the last big bad alpha who tried to do that.”

Derek turned his head to nuzzle behind Stiles' ear with a pleased rumble. “Then I guess we should educate him.”

He could feel Stiles grin against his cheek. “Maybe give him a practical demonstration.” One of Stiles' hands began running along Derek's chest again. “Sometimes people need a hands-on demonstration.”

“Are you making threats to Lance's person or trying to flirt with me?” Derek asked with a laugh skirting his voice, pulling back to give Stiles an amused look.

Stiles met his gaze, grin completely unrepentant. “Both. I'm a big fan of multitasking.”

With a roll of his eyes, Derek stepped away and headed toward the door. “Not now. Lance is getting closer.” He could feel it like an itch between his shoulder blades that he couldn't reach, persistent and annoying.

“Can't we just make Lance wait while we finish what we started? I mean, hell, if anything, that'll help convince him we're together.”

The words had Derek hesitating before he opened the bedroom door, but not for the reasons Stiles probably hoped. Did Stiles mean that despite the kissing, despite what they had been about to do, it didn't mean they were together now? Color bled from the world, and Derek closed his eyes to hide their red glow. It didn't help, though, because Stiles was his beta and so could sense his displeasure, as evidenced by the sudden, high-pitched whine from the bathroom.

Taking deep breaths, Derek reined in his emotions. “We need to-”

“What the hell was that?” Stiles barked, stumbling into the bedroom, looking torn between anger and concern. “What was that just now?”

Confident his eyes were back to normal, Derek opened them and turned to answer Stiles' question. Communication was important. They had all learned that the hard way years ago, and he wasn't about to backslide now. Not with his new beta. Not with Stiles. “Betas are attuned to their alpha's moods,” he explained.

“I know that,” Stiles snapped back, crossing his arms. “I helped fucking train everyone, remember? The Yoda to your Obi-wan.”

“Then why did you ask?” Derek couldn't keep the frustration out of his voice. This wasn't something he really wanted to discuss. Not now. Probably not ever. If Stiles just wanted to fuck around for a bit, fine, he could give him that. Stiles never needed to know just how desperately Derek wanted more.

“Because I wanted to know why you were suddenly transmitting painful sadness so fucking strongly. What the hell did I say to set that off?” Stiles' scent was changing, turning sour with anxiety.

“Nothing. It's fine.”

“Lie. Holy shit, I can actually fucking hear it now! Derek, your heart totally just skipped a beat!” For a flash of a moment, Stiles' face lit up, but then he registered what it meant that Derek had lied, and it was a dark cloud passing in front of the sun. “Don't lie to me.”

“Fine,” Derek grit out. “I thought we are together now.”

Stiles stared blankly at him, as if he were rewinding the last few minutes in his mind to figure out what the fuck Derek could be talking about. “We are? I mean,” he rushed on when he saw Derek's expression sour, “we are! Aren't we? I mean, what with the kissing and groping and me being all 'Derek-chu, I choose you!' I thought it was, like, obvious?”

“Oh.” Derek couldn't decide if he felt elated or embarrassed as fuck. “But you said?”

“Oh my god,” groaned Stiles. “Part of me wants to shake you for being an idiot, but part of me realizes this is a byproduct of Bad Things, and so mostly I want to piss on a certain blonde's grave.” He rubbed a hand over his face before meeting Derek's eyes with an expression so sharp it could slice stone. “Let's go solve the Lance problem, and then we'll talk about this some more. But, yes, Derek, we're together. As in a couple. Okay?”

Derek realized his mouth had fallen open, and he closed it with a click before nodding. “Yeah.” How could he have thought that Stiles would be any more subservient as a beta than he was as a human? Christ.

A howl rang out, loud enough to not be too far, but still not so close that Derek would be able to detect the source's heartbeat. “That Lance?” asked Stiles, tilting his head.

“You can't tell?” Derek asked as he watched Stiles for any reactions. “You don't feel a pull or compulsion to return the howl? Anything?”

Stiles frowned and shrugged. “No. Why, should I?”

“Well, he was the one who bit you.”

“So?” Stiles rolled his eyes and flicked-off the window. “Doesn't make the fucker my alpha.”

The howl sounded again, closer that time. Derek heaved a sigh. “Come on, Stiles. Time to meet your maker.”

“Oh ha-ha,” Stiles snarked back ruffling Derek's hair as they exited the bedroom and headed down the stairs. “Just for that, I'm not gonna blow you later.”

“Lie.”

Stiles shoved him against the banister and darted past him to be first to the bottom of the stairs.

---

So evidently Stiles hadn't exaggerated when he compared Lance to Peter. The alpha on Derek's porch was about the same age as Peter, with the same creeper leer and know-it-all smirk. “Alpha Hale,” and, evidently, the same condescending tone. “I'm Alpha Lance Ridgefield.” He was blonder, though.

“I'm aware of who you are,” said Derek, barely holding back a growl. “It would be in your best interest to leave my territory and never return.”

Lance's right eye twitched just slightly and his smile looked a little more strained. “Now, that's not very nice.”

“Neither is assaulting and kidnapping my partner, and then biting him against his will.” He didn't bother withholding the growl that time.

Lance looked startled, but it was as authentic as plastic trees. “Is that what he told you? Tsk, tsk. Such a naughty little beta.” Shifting his attention to Stiles over Derek's shoulder, Lance smiled. It was so oily that Derek felt dirty looking at it. “He was asking for it. Begging.”

Stiles snarled and Derek was barely able to reach back and grab him in time. He had shifted, eyes glowing bright gold as he tried to push past Derek to likely drag his claws along Lance's neck. Murmuring calming words, Derek leaned his body into Stiles' and nuzzled behind his ear. He felt Stiles shiver and then melt against him.

“As you can see,” purred Erica as she, Boyd, and Isaac poured out of the doorway around Derek and Stiles, to fan out around Lance, “Stiles is extremely taken. Believe me, I understand. I used to have such a crush on him. But I realized his heart belonged to another, and so I moved on.” She winked at Boyd, whose lips twitched into a small smile. “I suggest you move on, too, Uncle Peter 2.0.”

Following her with his eyes, Lance tilted his head. “Who is Uncle Peter?”

That made Erica grin, large and sharp. “Another werewolf who thought he could come in and take what was Derek's. Like you, he had a tendency to creep on people who could be his kids.”

“Oh?” asked Lance, amused smirk stretched across his lips. “And should I ask what happened to Uncle Peter?”

“Which direction did you come from through the preserve?” Stiles asked, glaring at Lance from over Derek's shoulder. He was gripping tightly to Derek in an obvious effort to retain control of his anger and shift.

Lance eyed him curiously. “From the south-east.”

“Did you sense anything that felt like the air right before a lightning storm? Something that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Accompanied, maybe, by the familiar scent of wolfsbane?” It really was amazing the level of control Stiles was exhibiting. Derek could feel him practically vibrating with suppressed rage, but his eyes were honey brown and his fingernails were blunt.

“Ah,” said Lance as if his suspicions were merely confirmed. “So I suppose Uncle Peter was buried there?”

When Stiles grinned, his teeth weren't as flat as they should have been. “Part of him. I think that's where his right arm is.”

The smirk dropped from Lance's face. “You'll find I'm not like Uncle Peter; I never fail at getting exactly what I want.”

“So maybe that's why you're having such a hard time recognizing your failure now,” said Derek, raising his eyebrows.

Lance looked around at the betas surrounding him and scoffed. “I have seven betas in my pack, Hale. You think you'll be able to defeat me with only the strength of three?”

“Well, first of all,” Derek corrected, shifting so that he had Stiles at his side and sliding his arm around his waist to keep him pressed close, “there are four betas of my pack present. Granted, I do have fewer werewolf betas, because in total I only have six. But, my pack isn't just comprised of werewolves.”

Taking that as their cue, Jackson emerged from the surrounding woods, one of Lance's betas shuffling awkwardly in front of him while Jackson kept his arms pinned tightly behind his back. Jackson gave a loud whistle, and suddenly Chris and Allison Argent were melting from the shadows, tugging along two shackled betas each. John was less stealthy, leaves and twigs crackling as he urged a cuffed beta forward at gunpoint.

“And I'm guessing you were counting me as your seventh?” asked Stiles with dark amusement. “Allow me to introduce you to a few more members of our pack. There's Jackson, he's another werewolf. Then there's the delightfully deadly father-daughter team there of Chris and Allison Argent.” At Lance's widened eyes, Stiles grinned. “Oh yes, those Argents. And last but not least, my dad. The county Sheriff.” He chuckled, obviously delighting in Lance's mounting panic. “Stick around and you'll get to meet two more members. My best bud Scott—who's also a werewolf—should be arriving soon. Then there's Lydia, who's as horrifying as she is beautiful, and I gotta tell you that girl puts Aphrodite to shame.”

Erica leaned in just a little, whispering conspiratorially to Lance. “She's the reason Uncle Peter's in pieces.”

“If you leave now,” said Derek, “we'll let you and your pack go unharmed. But if you ever step foot in Beacon Hills again or try to make any sort of contact with Stiles, you won't walk away so lucky.”

Lance was white as a ghost, eyes darting about to take everyone and everything in. He had to know that he failed. Derek expected him to do the smart thing and retreat. Really, he should have listened when Stiles tried to explain the man was unhinged.

In an instant, Lance was lunging for Derek's throat, only to stop short as a clawed hand gripped his own throat tightly. Stiles snarled around fanged teeth, “Go on. Give me a fucking reason. Always thought red was my color.”

Everything seemed to be frozen, no one daring to even breathe as they all waited to see what would happen next. Lance and Stiles stared each other down, and a drop of dark red blood beaded and dripped down Lance's neck where Stiles' thumbnail pricked the skin. Ever so slowly, Lance lifted his hands in surrender and backed away, Stiles' claws dragging thin lines across his neck as he moved.

“None of my betas would dare challenge me,” Lance said almost casually. The marks on his neck were already healing. “So I suppose it's true; Stiles isn't mine.” He lifted a hand to wipe away the blood with his thumb, then licked the pad of his thumb clean. “Pity. We could have had a lot of fun together.”

“In your sick, deluded dreams,” spat Stiles, still shifted and claws ready to swipe if necessary.

Lance just smirked at him, then turned around and walked down the porch steps. “Release my pack, if you'd be so kind, and we'll be out of your hair.”

Jackson, John, and the Argents released the betas, but each of them stood ready to take action if any of the betas made a wrong move. The Ridgefield pack were true to their alpha's word, though, and all of them went quietly back into the preserve.

Just as Derek could barely make out the last of their footsteps, Melissa's car rumbled up. Scott jumped out before Melissa even had it in park, running up to the porch. “I'm here! When are the bad guys showing up?”

Stiles snorted, his appearance back to human. “Already done, Scott.”

“What?” whined Scott. “No way!”

“That's good, though, right?” Melissa was asking, still standing next to the car and looking around at the others for confirmation. “No one was hurt or anything?”

John shook his head and finally holstered his gun. “Just shook 'em up a little bit. Everyone's fine.”

“Oh shit,” gasped Isaac, eyes wide in horror. “I forgot to go to the airport to pick Lydia up.”

Jackson cringed, even as an amused smile fought to break free. “Well, so much for making it through today with no casualties. It was nice knowing you, Isaac.”

Isaac turned his fear-filled gaze onto Jackson. “You go! She likes you!”

Fuck no. You think I want her mad at me for being late? You were the one who said he'd pick her up, you go!”

“I'm making homemade pizza for lunch,” Chris told John, Melissa, and Scott. “Would you like to join us?”

“Aw, is there enough for everyone? I want some,” Erica called out, leaning over the railing of the porch. “Besides, we gotta get out of the house for a while so we don't have to listen to Derek and Stiles go at it like bunnies.”

“What?” yelped John, whipping around to pin Derek with a stare. “I thought the relationship was a bluff?”

Erica burst out laughing. “Please, have you seen them around each other? I'm just glad they finally got their heads out of their own asses and focused on each other's.”

John rubbed both hands over his face, shoulders slumping. “Good lord.”

“Congrats, bro,” yelled Scott, giving two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Stiles smiled goofily and returned the gesture.

“Then just come with me,” Isaac was pleading with Jackson. “You can distract her.”

“Man, the longer you stand here and waste time with me, the more she's going to be pissed.”

“I have a new recipe for pizza dough I've been wanting to try out,” Boyd informed Chris, walking down from the porch. “I can help you make enough for everyone.”

Chris smiled and nodded. “Sounds good. Need a lift?”

“Dad, I'm going to ride with Scott and Melissa back,” Allison called over her shoulder as she slipped into the backseat of Melissa's car with Scott.

“What are you thinking of?” Stiles asked, nudging Derek in the side and pulling him away from watching his pack. “You look a million miles away.”

“I'm not,” assured Derek. “I'm right here.” He cupped a hand around Stiles' hip and pulled him close so he could breathe him in. “There's nowhere else in the world I'd rather be.”